NHL Playoffs: Balanced Play Makes Blues A Different Challenge For Hawks

Sidney Brown provides dispatches from the front lines of Blackhawks fandom throughout the hockey season.

Flashback to the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues playoff series from two years ago, and it was clear to see contrasting styles between the two teams — the Hawks, then as now, tended to utilize their athletic abilities and controlled games — when they could — through a quick-tempo offensive strike philosophy.

In the time since, the Blues, who once lived up to their name in regards to its pace of play, have picked things up — today, they’re more like the St. Louis Hard Rockers. Thanks to a restocked roster filled with scorers to compliment the physical presence, in the first three games of this year’s series with Chicago, the Blues have brought their traditional strong defense to the ice, but timely scoring along with consistent goal tending has them currently leading the series 2-1.

The Hawks have benefited from the return of star defenseman Duncan Keith from his six-game suspension, with Duncs scoring a goal in their Game 2 win. Also helping: the growing confidence of rookie sensation Artemi Panarin (1 goal, 1 assist) has kept Chicago afloat.  Team defense for the Hawks has been impressive despite the third period meltdown in Game 3 where they allowed two goals in an eventual loss.

Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson have carried the blue line, but the inconsistent play of Michal Rozsival and rookie Viktor Svedberg is a cause for concern. Will Quenneville make a change in the defensive lineup in time for Game 4?  Stay tuned.   Superstars Jonathan Toews (2 assists) and Patrick Kane (3 assists) have brought their play to the ice thus far but it’s time for them to start putting the puck in the back of the net.

As far as goaltending is concerned, Corey Crawford has stepped up to the plate and has carried the Hawks posting a 1.94 goals against average and making incredible saves matching his counterpart Brian Elliot of St. Louis.  Any Hawks fan who has a complaint about Corey’s performance to this point just hasn’t been watching the games — to you guys I say, GO AWAY!  One stat that Hawks fans should keep in mind as they watch the rest of this series: two out of the five goals that Chicago has scored have been with the man advantage.

Scoring goals five on five (even strength) has been a major problem all season and you can not depend on just the 2nd line of Panarin, Kane and Artem Anisimov to carry you.  In the playoffs, it’s the role that step up to the plate and it’s time for the Hawks role players to make a name for themselves – Andrew Ladd, Marian Hossa and Teuvo Teravainen.

Give the Blues credit for taking advantage of the Hawks mistakes and they’re a team that will not go away.  Yes, the Blues are a much different team than two years ago, but the Hawks still have the experience and talent to send St. Louis home.

Series Stats (Thru Game 3)

Hits: Hawks (85)  Blues (122)

Shots On Goal: Hawks (110)  Blues (85)

Power Play: Hawks (2-12)  Blues (2-8)

I know that many Hawks fans are worried about their favorite trailing team trailing in a series, but remember this under coach Joel Quenneville, the Hawks are 6-15 in Game 3’s but as the series goes along in Games 4-7, the Hawks display a record of 43-14.

To make a long story short, remember last year’s run to the Stanley Cup, trailed 3-2 to Anaheim in the Western Conference Final and trailed Tampa Bay in the Stanley Cup Final 2-1. The later a series gets, the Hawks usually figure out their opponent by making the necessary adjustments along with their stars stepping up which eventually leads to a series win.

What To Expect Going Forward

With two of the next three games in Chicago, expect the Hawks to capitalize on their shots on goal and creating more traffic in front of the net making life difficult for Elliot. A change in the defensive pairing will help the Hawks solidify the defensive core and play a complete game. Will the Hawks win the next three games to close out the series or will the Blues finally seize on a moment and eliminate the Hawks? This series is starting to heat up and live up to its expectations, so BUCKLE UP!

Hawks Team Leaders

Points: Patrick Kane (3)

Goals: Duncan Keith (1)

Assists: Patrick Kane (3)

Penalty Minutes: Viktor Svedberg (6)

Goals Against Average: Corey Crawford (1.92)

Series Leaders

Goals: David Backes – STL (1)

Points: David Backes – STL (3)

Assists: Patrick Kane (3)

Goals Against Average: Brian Elliot – STL (1.28)

Hawks Round 1 Schedule*

Tonight vs. St. Louis — 8:30 pm^
April 21 at St. Louis — 8:30 pm^
April 23 vs St. Louis — TBD (if necessary) 

April 25 at St. Louis — TBD (if necessary)

*All times central

^Broadcast on CSN-Chicago & NBCSN 

#Broadcast on NBC

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under Regal Radio; Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Sidney Brown @sidkid80

 

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